Photo of Abdul Sesay (l) and Ang Bey (r) by Paola Nogueras
Now at Theatre Exile, catch the Philadelphia premiere of Chicago-born playwright, attorney and theatre journalist Loy A. Webb’s The Light. This is a fierce and fast-paced show that received critical success during an off-Broadway run.
Genesis (Ang Bey) and Rashad (Abdul Sesay) have been in a relationship for two years and they’re about to take it to the next level. Through the 70 minute show, the audience gets a crash course in their time as a couple and who they are individually, their backgrounds, how they met and just how much they love each other. They cracks jokes, get intimate, and begin to celebrate an evening that kicks off with an enthusiastic proposal! It’s clear that this is a relationship they both fought for and worked hard on…but as gifts are exchanged, new emotions are unleashed…and the evening gets very intense.
This show surrounds incidents and accusations of sexual assault. So keep that in mind before attending if it may hit close to home. Unfortunately, for these characters and so many others, it does. And as Genesis and Rashad discuss situations that involve not just controversial people in the public eye, but also in their lives, we see how their feelings on the subject shift.
Like Theatre Exile’s previous show this season, Wolf Play by Hansol Jung, The Light is character driven. Just when you think you know where the show is going, you’ll be shocked and left hanging. With the heavy dialogue and content, and two incredible actors letting their roles consume them for the best possible theatre experience, you’ll walk out of the show wondering what you would do in the situation as well. It’s not a good feeling, but it’s one that needs to be discussed.
Below, Ang Bey and Abdul Sesay discuss their roles in The Light and why stories like this one need to be told on the stage. Please get tickets to this show, it runs through February 26th. More details can be found here.
Q: Tell us about your role in The Light and the conflicts they are faced with throughout the show.
Ang Bey: I play Genesis Marie Washington. She’s a thirty-something principal at an all-Black charter school in Chicago. She’s vibrant, confident, intelligent, patient, and generous. She’s also the greatest gift to portray. I don’t want to give too much away, but Genesis’s struggles are familiar to far too many of us. Broadly, she’s struggling with an unfathomable secret and its implications for her relationship to her lover Rashad. As the play unfolds, we run the gamut of emotions. It’s a complex, wild ride.
Abdul Sesay: I play Rashad Tate. A suave, loving father and firefighter from the city of Chicago. While trying to arrange the perfect proposal for his girlfriend, we witness Rashad deal with allegations from his past and how they affected his football career.
Q: Were you familiar with The Light or other plays by Loy A. Webb before becoming a part of Theatre Exile’s production?
AB: Unfortunately, I was not familiar with Loy before The Light. Fortunately, I have a beautiful new body of work to explore!
AS: I can’t say I was, but now that I do, I’ll be on the lookout.
Q: This season, Theatre Exile shows promise to be filled with hope and humor. How does The Light fit into this theme?
AB: The Light has both of these things in spades! Rashad and Genesis love each other so much that there’s a joke on nearly every page – even through tribulation. Without giving too much away, there’s a lot of hope in trusting someone enough to be honest and disagree. Genesis and Rashad are extremely honest with each other, and oh, how they disagree…
AS: Rashad and Genesis have such a playful and affectionate relationship. You see it in how they greet each other and how they recall their past adventures. They both crack jokes on each other, but it’s never at the other’s expense. It’s always rooted in love. Their display of love is teeming with hope and humor.
Q: Playwright Loy A. Webb is also an attorney. How do you think that role helped her form the story of The Light?
AB: Rashad and Genesis’s arguments are so well balanced. As Ang, I agree and disagree with both of them. Even with my biases, it’s hard to call who “wins.” Audiences from previews express the same thing! Genesis and Rashad’s arguments keep you at the edge of your seat and take your breath away– much like sitting on the jury of a dramatic case.
AS: Genesis and Rashad both seem to have a ton of information at the ready to support their arguments in the debates we witness. I can’t help but think that might be because of the attorney in Loy.
Q: Is there a certain scene or line in The Light that resonates with you personally? Why?
AB: “…along with being Black, Black women have to struggle with the complications that come with being a woman. That’s unique!” – this line, for me, feels like the thesis of the play.
AS: I don’t know if I’m sharing too much, but I probably resonated the most with the proposal because I proposed to my fiancée towards the end of the rehearsal process. The preparation for Rashad actually helped me a lot that night!
Q: Why is it important for this show to be produced for a Philadelphia audience? What do you hope they take away from the story on stage?
AB: In recent years, there’s been a concerted effort to tell more #Blackstories onstage. Cynically, I think it’s because producers realize it’s an untapped market. Optimistically, I’m glad that more Black artists are getting work and notoriety. However, I feel that a lot of these Black plays are written to placate non-Black audiences. The Light isn’t that kind of play. In my opinion, it’s written for Black people, with an exciting invitation for everyone to join the ride. Black people literally and figuratively built Philly as we know it. Producing a show like The Light in this city is only right.
AS: Although Genesis and Rashad are from Chicago, I’d like to believe that their type of love isn’t exclusive to that city. I think it’s important for Black folks all over to see what Black love can look like, in its highs and lows. I think this play addresses topics that are relevant and have plagued our community for ages. I would hope that after seeing this play, folks would be open to having discussions about the things that a lot of us continue to sweep under the rug.